The musaceae are tall, shrub-like grasses with a pseudo-trunk or false-stem.
The inflorescence is terminal, unique, and generally large.
The genus Musa includes many wild species and many cultivated varieties with a complex classification.
Most wild species carry fleshy fruits containing hard seeds which make them unfit for consumption.
The majority of banana fruits cluster are hanging above the ground but those of M. troglodytarum or Fei (Pacific banana) are on the contrary erected towards the sky (moreover these bananas have a flesh colored in red).
Cultivated varieties of bananas are sometimes polyploid hybrids (usually triploid) with seedless fruits.
The cultivated banana is therefore a complex hybrid that has lost the ability to reproduce by seeds (still present in the fruit as a remnant), but its vegetative regeneration is very efficient by offshoots.
In some tropical depopulated areas (as in the Marquesas Islands) one can find real banana groves that may be several dozen or even hundreds of years old.
The subterranean bulb of the banana emits each year an offshoot, sometimes several which usually die after having fructified by giving a "banana stem" or "bunch".
Among the cultivated varieties of bananas, and to simplify, there are two main categories: dessert bananas (bananas figs) very sweet usually eaten raw and "plantains" which are better cooked to make them digestible .
While in temperate countries only dessert fruits are consumed, in tropical countries "cooking bananas" or "plantains" are generally more widespread . They are easier to transport, keep longer, give the impression of being more nutritious and easier to accompany meat or fish.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
Some bananas have a white flesh, others are colored yellow by provitamin A.
Here are some average chemical compositions:
Dessert Banana (figs) :
76% water, 1% protein, 22% carbohydrates, very little fat, between 2 and 200 micrograms per 100g of vitamin A expressed as retinol, 10mg / 100g of vitamin C, vitamins of group B in low quantit
Banana to cook (plantain) :
68% water, 1% protein, 29% carbohydrates, 1% cellulose, 2 to 150 micrograms per 100 g of vitamin A expressed as retinol, 15 to 20 mg / 100g of vitamin C which oxidizes partly during cooking.
Finer analyzes of the skin and banana pulp reveal the existence of substances acting on the nervous system; serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
These neurotransmitters have various actions on the central nervous system and the peripheral organs via specific receptors (eg: increase or decrease of arterial pressure, modification of the digestive secretion, modification of the movements of the stomach or the intestine, action on mood, sleep etc. ..)
The flesh of the Pacific banana ("fei" banana, M. troglodytarum) contains orange-yellow dyes that strongly stain the urine of those who consume it.
The sap of banana is abundant, astringent, antiseptic and oxidizes giving a dark purple color to the skin or fabrics.
It contains,tannins and flavonoids (anti-inflammatories, antioxidants) derived from myricetin, naringenin, quercetin and kaemferol, as well as small amounts of cathecholamines (dopamine and serotonin) and vitamin C.
FOOD AND DIETETIC
Bananas, especially those grown without pesticides , are a healthy food, very digestible when ripe.
However, people allergic to latex should avoid consuming them.
In many countries it is a weaning food that is offered to children from 4 to 6 months, the banana is of course protected from bacteria by its skin.
It contains little protein, so it is an interesting dietetic food in case of blood hyperazotemia related to kidney disorders.
Banana is also a digestive regulator, perhaps by its content in catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine), perhaps by its carbohydrate composition.
On the other hand, some people are indisposed (bloating) by the excessive consumption of raw bananas.
In fact, raw bananas, when not fully ripe, contain a variety of starch that is not easily digestible. This starch is metabolized in the large intestine by colon bacteria with release carbon dioxide and also fatty acids (some volatile) which can cause flatulence.
The cooking of green or non-ripe bananas decreases the amount of indigestible starch.
Its use in case of constipation or diarrhea, ulcer or gastritis is common in all tropical regions but without a precise therapeutic rule.
The ripe banana flesh is rich in mineral salts including potassium, magnesium and easily assimilated sugars; it is therefore an interesting food to support a prolonged muscular effort (example:tennis player).
The banana at the beginning of maturity is easily dried in the sun like a fig, it is thus preserved long months wrapped and pressed in a vegetal tissue.
It was one of the relief food that Maori people carried on board their large ocean-going canoes and multihulls.
The Polynesians also made a fermented dough similar to the "popoi" of the breadfruit when, at certain times of the year, there was overproduction of banana.
Banana dried before maturity (sometimes after a short cooking) can be grinded once hard; banana flour retains the dietary virtues of fresh banana but with a very low vitamin content.
In most tropical countries banana beer or a nutritious drink full of B vitamins is still made from a mixture of banana and cassava pulp or sweet potato, all of which is slightly fermented (in the same way as the amazonian amerindian "cachiri").
Protection against colon cancer
Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of bananas reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
This relative protection against colon cancer and perhaps secondary to the combination of anti-oxidant, anti-free radical, therefore anti-inflammatory effects of banana pulp with a "probiotic" effect of undigested residues that promote good balance of the bacterial and fungal flora of the large intestine.
Sap and banana leaf
The abundant sap of banana tree can be applied to cutaneous wounds, infected burns, skin infections, mouth and gum wounds (tooth extraction). It is a rather powerful antiseptic although of an inconvenient use. Banana sap accelerates tissue healing and is anti-haemorrhagic.
If necessary, the banana leaf can be used as a temporary dressing.
In India, extracts of this part of the banana tree are used (infusion) to stabilize type 2 diabetes.
Recent studies have confirmed this anti-hyperglycemic effect associated with a strong antioxidant effect.
AN IMPORTANT FRUIT AND A MEDICINAL PLANT
Banana is a important dietetic staple food in many tropical regions and a dessert fruit in temperate countries.
The leaves and sap of the banana tree make it possible to quickly make a protective bandage, antiseptic and anti-haemorrhagic..
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel